Friday, June 29, 2018

Divine Interactions

Divine Interactions
Sandra Costin

            I love to reflect on how God interacts in our lives.  In so many ways He shows His loves for us, and that He cares for every aspect of our lives.
            My husband Dick and I live in an apartment complex at Canterbury Retreat Center. One month we received a very high water bill. It was obvious that there was a leaky, underground pipe.  The repairmen searched and dug for several days but to no avail.  As my husband, Deacon Dick, was leaving for the clergy conference, he stopped with the workers and prayed, “Dear Lord, please help these men find the leak.”  Before Dick was even able to get into his car, the leak was discovered!  Shortly, thereafter, it was fixed.  This was a sure example of the scripture that says, “Ask and you will receive.”  (Matt 7:7)
            The Lord also has intervened dramatically in my own life.  We live on a very busy six-lane state road in Oviedo, Florida – Highway 434.  Directly across that highway, there are many shops and restaurants where I like to go.  One day I decided to make a five-minute walk across this road which almost ended in disaster.  After checking for traffic and seeing no cars, I started to cross.  After crossing the first two lanes, I suddenly felt as if I had literally hit a wall – I could not move.  I tried to take a step, but my feet would not work. I looked up, and out of nowhere a car zoomed by in lane three – right in front of me.  I had no idea where it had come from - all the lanes were perfectly clear when I started crossing.  Immediately I was aware that God had protected me from danger.
Another God moment happened to me on a beautiful day at the beach. While I was walking alone near the shore, a memory from my childhood surfaced from deep within me. This was a special memory - one that had a healing effect on me.  As my tears started to fall, I stopped and prayed, “Oh God, if I only had a pen…”  At that exact moment something in the surf hit my foot.  Yes, you may have guessed, it was a PEN.  Now I know what you are wondering, “Did it write?”  No, it did not.  However, I realized once again how God is in tune with our smallest desires. 
Our God is truly awesome!  He knows every intimate thought and delights in surprising us in unexpected ways to let us know He is there.  He is our everlasting defender – “our very present help in trouble.(Ps 46:1)  Praise God!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Christ is Alive and Well in Prison

Christ is Alive and Well in Prison
 Charles Norman
In 1980 I was incarcerated at Union Correctional Institute in Raiford, Florida. Fellow prisoners repeatedly tried to get me to attend a “Kairos* Weekend.”  But I did not want to go and be with child molesters and hypocrites. 
However, in 1982, after my friend Joe Miller gave me a different insight -- the church was more a hospital for sinners than a showcase for saints, I did sign up.  I began to understand that if prisoners were going to church, it gave them a chance to change their lives and to become better men.  I also realized that I needed to deal with my own shortcomings.
When the Kairos weekend arrived, I did my best to keep my judgmental nature in check. While there, I discovered that those men were actually glad to meet me and considered me a brother.  They shared the joy they felt when they hugged me and told me Jesus loved me. It might sound hokey, but they were for real. The feelings were contagious.  And I sensed myself becoming a better man.
During the intervening years since that weekend, I have volunteered in many Christian programs. I have needed the reinforcement and fellowship that such gatherings offer.  In the midst of such worldly evil and degeneracy that dominates prison life, these gatherings serve to maintain our hope, faith and belief in a God who forgives and delivers us - which is crucial to our survival, both physically and spiritually.
I am still incarcerated but have now been moved to Tomoka Correctional Institute in Daytona Beach, Florida.  In 2010 I attended a “Kairos Reunion” program at the prison chapel. Such reunions give the prisoners, who have previously attended Kairos Weekends, a chance to reinforce the faith and spiritual lessons they learned during the “short course in Christianity.”  During these follow-up monthly programs, volunteers come from surrounding communities. These two-hour programs consist of testimonies, prayers, songs, and discussions.
At this particular gathering several prisoners with guitars and other musical instruments led an introductory hymn, “Victory In Jesus.” As I sang along with the group with my eyes closed, I imagined that I was a child in Redwater Baptist Church in East Texas in the 1950’s.  I was in the comforting midst and security of my family, hearing those same words for the first time.
I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary, to save a wretch like me.

I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory...”

When I opened my eyes, I returned to reality – no longer a child in Texas.  Instead it
was 2010, and I was in a prison chapel filled with convicted felons. There were also a handful of well-meaning citizens who could see beyond these sins.  They demonstrated their faith by coming through the razor wire and prison gates to encourage the men whom society has written off and cast aside.
For the couple of hours we spent in the chapel, we couldn’t see the fences, the guard towers, and the gun trucks cruising around. We were able to see the best in our fellow man, as we continued to sing:
O Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever,

He sought me and bought me, with His redeeming blood.
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”

Thank God, Christ is alive and well in prison!

* Kairos Prison Ministry is a Christian program which shares the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  The goal is to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Being There

Being There
Sue  Steward

A Vision
When my husband and I were raising our four small children, times were difficult.  Being a carpenter and living in Minnesota, my husband was only employed during the warmer months of the year.  When he didn’t have work, I would always find a second job to make ends meet.  During this time, I searched for security in my life.
At this stage of my life I did a lot of church hopping.  I wanted to find a place where I could really feel the presence of God.  One Sunday, while worshipping and praying with a congregation of believers that met in an old country school, I closed my eyes and raised my hands in praise.  After a moment, the room filled with warmth and light.  An unbelievable feeling came over me!  In my mind’s eye, I could see a large hand come into that light and wrap around me.  The experience gave me the secure feeling I had been longing for.    I knew then that everything was going to be all right.  The Lord gave me that assurance!

Answered Prayer
Later in life, I became an LPN, which I felt to be my calling.  There were many occasions when I and my nursing friends were able to gather around those patients in need of prayer.  There were even instances when we would baptize an infant if time made it imperative.  How joyful it was to be able to share my faith with others! 
On one occasion a man was told by his doctor that he had cancer in his leg which would require surgery.  During the surgery, a biopsy was to be done to confirm the diagnosis.  If it proved to be positive, he was told his leg would have to be amputated.  As I cared for him before surgery, I called in another nurse who was also a believer, and we laid hands on him.  When he returned from surgery that afternoon, he returned with his leg.  No cancer was found to be present.  Our prayer had been answered!  Thanks be to God!
I know that my mission as a nurse was to be where God needed me.  My relationship with Him and His presence in my life makes my life complete.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Arranged by God

Arranged by God

Recently, my wife Terri and I were driving on a rural Florida forest road exploring, miles from civilization, enjoying the views of nature. Suddenly we came up behind a group of five motorcycles. Being bikers ourselves, we decided not to pass the group and followed them at a safe distance. While going around a curve, the last biker in the group drifted off the road into the grass, and the bike immediately flipped over 2 or 3 times. I braked fast, pulled off the road, and ran over to the crashed bike. However, I could not find the rider. Looking around, I saw the motorcyclist - unconscious, face up in the shallow water of the roadway drainage creek. Without any hesitation, I went through knee-deep water to reach the man. and held his head above the water. The other motorcyclists did not see the crash and continued riding away. We knew it was going to be up to us help the man.  Terri called 911 to let them know we needed help – out here in the middle of nowhere! Luckily, the dispatchers knew precisely where we were by the cell phone’s GPS. I said a quick prayer that this man would be all right.
While waiting, we decided not to move the rider out of the water fearing possible neck injury. Slowly Bill started to come back into a semi-conscious state of awareness.  He was having a difficult time breathing as he tried to sit up. We helped him out of the water onto the bank of the creek and laid him back down. The Fire Rescue and a Deputy Sheriff officer arrived after about 15-20 minutes and took over his emergency care.  About the same time, the other bikers returned to find their friend. 
Amazingly, out of the ten people at the scene, including the Deputy Sheriff, we discovered not a single person had cell phone service! How was Terri able to make the emergency call to 911?!  How incredibly remarkable!!  God had us there for a reason. 
Terri and I came away from this experience, once again realizing that God guides us, protects us, and uses us.   

Friday, June 1, 2018

All Right With God

All Right with God
Joan May

            My great niece Katrina Alexandra Hall was born in 1992 with a congenital heart defect.  What a big name for a tinier than usual baby!  Shortly after she was born, the surgeon performed heart surgery.  He told my sister Ann (Katie’s grandmother who was an RN), “Mrs. Hall, this baby is a miracle! While doing the surgery, I had to go to a place I’ve never gone before – near her lungs.”
            Since I live in Florida, I only see this family when I go on trips back to Illinois where they live.  The first time I saw Katie was when she was just an infant. While there, I was asked to babysit Katie for a short period while Ann took Katie’s mother, Lisa, to an appointment.  I was almost afraid to hold this fragile little baby. It was such a joy!  During the following years, I regretted not being able to visit them more often. 
Katie required other heart surgeries during her early years.  Although Katie’s condition kept her from doing physical activities, she did survive and grow. My sister Ann looked out for Katie and sent her to summer camps for children with disabilities.  Katie developed into a sweet-natured pre-teen, well-liked by other kids.
When she was 14 years old, she was scheduled for her eighth heart operation. As Ann tucked Katie into bed the night before her surgery, she asked her how she was feeling.  Katie replied, “I talked to God, Grandma, and He said I was going to be all right.”  The following day right after the surgery, the sorrowful surgeon told the family the heart surgery went fine, but her lungs gave out. 
When Ann told me the details of Katie’s passing and the conversation they had the night before, we both rejoiced that she was now truly… all right with God.